It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been around. Cross country moves are not for the faint of heart. But I’m back now and wanted to toss you some free music and introduce you to someone you need to know: Joshua James.
In my travels from the left to right coast, I caught James’ show in Atlanta at Eddie’s Attic. Let me tell you this, he’s the real deal and amazing live. It’s raw and truthful music. Not quite sure what category you’d place him in, but it would go something like alt-folk-americana rock. This was the second time I’ve seen him live and it’s been great every time.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Today we celebrate St. Patrick, a man who loved God and was a missionary planted nearly 700 churches. He was also the first man to speak and crusade against slavery. To him we say, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Today we also celebrate a holiday that by in large has nothing to do with the St. Patrick the man. It’s all about wearing green and celebrating Irish culture (i.e. drinking beer) with friends. So to help you in your merriment, I give you some St. Patty’s day themed tunes!
To blend both St. Patrick and your partying – make sure to get your theological analogies correct before downing that green pint (or pitcher)! Don’t want to look dumb down at the local pub while wearing that oversized green foam hat and claiming that the shamrock represents the trinity. Cheers!
Survival Lesson #8: ORGANIZE BEFORE THEY RISE!
“Unlike its human counterparts, an army of zombies is completely independent of support. It will not require food, ammunition, or medical attention. It will not suffer from low morale, battle fatigue, or poor leadership… Like the virus that gave it life, this undead force will continue to grow, spreading across the body of this planet until there is nothing left to devour.”– Brooks (p.155)
Never underestimate the power of a well thought out plan in the post-apocalyptic world. You may be smarter than a zombie, but they will always outnumber you. This truth must never be overlooked. Just like you can never over live your life; you can never over plan for a situation. No matter how simple it may seem; always be well organized.
The second key change the church must be made is oriented around how we choose to organize ourselves. Our hierarchy for leadership and structure speaks volumes towards the heart of a church without saying a word. “Christian social ethics should not begin with attempts to develop strategies designed to make the world more “just,” but with the formation of a society shaped and informed by the truthful character of the God we find revealed in the stories of Israel and Jesus” (Newbigin A Community of Character p. 92).
Traditionally, church has operated under a top down model for leadership and power. If we look at the Gospels, that is never the case. Christ sends out his disciples, two by two. The church in Acts was driven and expanded as it advanced one relationship at a time. Moreover, in a post-Christian culture, there is a pronounced distrust of church and church leadership which is why I am suggesting the adoption of a polycentric, flat model of leadership where ”leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ in such a way that the entire body is activated to service and matures in love” (Woodward Creating a Missional Culture p.60). Leadership in this structure, cultivates, empowers and equips the congregation to be Christ in the community. It unleashes the church to do the work of the church. Church in this way is poised for action that takes place in the streets, the workplace and the living room. It is interactive, relational and missional. For the church to survive in the 21st century, those who follow Christ must become the catalyst and cultivators of Christianity. This is the only way…
“Still more pathetic is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. Fanatics think that their single-minded principles qualify them to do battle with the powers of evil; but like a bull they rush at the red cloak instead of the person who is holding it; he exhausts himself and is beaten. He gets entangled in non-essentials and falls into the trap set by cleverer people.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Letters and Papers From Prison)
Christ’s call of the Gospel isn’t a proposition for a different way to live or a certain set of rules. It’s a dare. A dare to not fall in love with the person of Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.
So often we package the Gospel as a offer. Jesus will forgive your sins if… I think the scandal of Christ is something so much richer and deeper than a sales pitch. Once we boil it down to an accept/reject decision – the beauty of the gospel is lost. It’s something much, much more than that. God is calling you to enter into a life with him. This life involves discovery, growth, grace and peace.
Listen to Hang with Me by Robyn.
She begins with:
Will you tell me once again
How we’re gonna be just friends?
If you’re for real and not pretend
Then I guess you can hang with me
Often times we end up asking God this question. We’re always looking for what’s in it for us, but we’ve got it all wrong. It’s the other way around. Christ is the one asking us, “are you looking for a friend or a savior?” Are we looking for something real and life-changing? Or just a buddy Jesus?
I love the chorus in this song. It’s simply a dare:
Just don’t fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it’s gonna be
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree you can hang with me
I think that in the Gospels, Christ is daring us not to follow him. Look at his interactions with the disciples. He’s never begging them to stay. Something deeper stirs them. Jesus never goes around begging people to follow Him. His way, his essence, His Kingdom, were all far too compelling and transcendent to be boiled down into a proposition. It also wasn’t merely about forgiveness or sin. This was God in the flesh dwelling with mankind. It was something more profound, absolutely moving and completely undeniable that went way beyond words. It was an offer to have your world turned upside down.
Try adequately to describe a beautiful sunset or the majesty of snow covered mountains on a clear day. Words are not adequate. There are some things that are beyond explanation. Do we speak of the Gospel like it’s a dare and something beyond words? Or do we describe it in terms that are rigid, technical and/or harsh?
How we articulate the Gospel is key. How we live it is essential. Do we speak imaginatively with the passionate words of poets? Do we live lives that echo the the beauty, humility and majesty of the Christ’s life?
Let’s begin to remember that the Gospel was never about us. It’s all about Christ. Do we dare to live that way?
Survival Lesson #7: GET UP THE STAIRCASE, THEN DESTROY IT.
“Naturally, many other skills-wilderness survival, leadership, even basic first aid-will be necessary in any encounter with the living dead.” – Brooks (xiv)
When being chased by the walking dead, always evaluate your surroundings. You must become adapt at learning what aspects of your environment you can destroy to impede your pursuers. It’s a delicate balance of escape, pacing and strategy. Always be mindful to never box yourself in. Dead-ends almost always live up to their names.
With the western church we have virtually found ourselves at a dead end. “The reality of the situation is that Western, white culture dominates American culture and, in turn, dominates American evangelicalism” (Rah The Next Evangelicalism p.200). In our globalized world, the church must begin to look like a globalized church. Diversity is needed both in leadership and in mission. One key place to begin this change is by rethinking (strategically) the ethnicity of church leadership. The literal face of Christianity must change. In order to have a multicultural church, you must have a multicultural staff. This is not a mere token change, but a strategic one. Our church [leadership and laity] should be a reflection of the neighborhood we find ourselves in. To reach the community, we need to look and speak like the community. “A church uniquely expresses herself as she matches her deep hunger with the needs of the neighborhood” (Woodward Creating a Missional Culture p.174). For the church to truly be an expression of God’s kingdom, it must look as diverse as God’s global kingdom.
Secondly, for diversity to happen, I, as a church leader must be willing to step into situations of submission engaging with those outside of my ethnic group. For too long in the West, has church (and other arenas of power) been dominated (or oppressive) by white leadership. Submission is both an act of reconciliation and also posture for learning. To rethink leadership in this way, I must seek out cross-cultural mentors. I have much to learn and see the value of being under the authority of others from diverse backgrounds and experiences. As a leader, my commitment to submission greatly impacts the ethos of the church I pastor. The faith we represent is not one of perceived power and influence, but one of humility, grace, brokenness, and healing. We must also learn in this way that submission is the chief posture for the people who carry the Gospel into the world; the heart of our church beings and ends in this simple truth…
Some may call this sacrilege. I call it funny. Ultimately, this SNL sketch has less to do with Christ and more to do with Tarantino.
But it did get me thinking. As I watched through this parody of Tarantino it also seemed to also be a pretty good parody of the American Church as well. We laugh at this sketch because it seems so far from the teachings and life of Christ. It’s absurdist comedy. Jesus was about serving others, forgiveness and mercy. Djesus is on a different sort of mission. He is all about revenge and violence.
If we look at how American Christianity is evolving today. I see Christians becoming an angry, vengeful and political bunch. It almost seems like following after Djesus is the new shift in American Evangelicalism.
How divisive have we become as a people of faith? Now, I’m not saying all churches (and Christians) out there are way off, but what I am commenting to here is the overall zeitgeist of the Christian voice in our culture today. It’s that loud drumbeat of fear and anger that tends echo the loudest. That particular voice seems to tear town more than it builds up. Simply using words from the Bible to try to prove your point doesn’t make your point Biblical. When those words don’t match up with the Bible’s message of love, redemption, grace and peace then you’re taking things out of context. You’re using scripture to prop up your own world agendas.
This week as you watch the news, read blogs, interact over Facebook or Twitter and listen to sermons & podcasts… ask yourself:
Has this issue [insert your issue] become more politically driven than Biblical?
Which kingdom does this agenda or voice identify with more: God’s or America’s?
Does this seem to be in the mold of Jesus or Djesus?
“Remember; no matter how desperate the situation seems, time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.” – Brooks (p.87)
When facing a zombie apocalypse, having a well thought out survival strategy is your best bet to make sure you face another tomorrow. Decisions made in haste rarely work out. For instance, in an impulsive moment you think it is a good idea to light the zombies on fire to slow their pursuit. But then quickly realize that you still have zombies after you, only now they are flaming zombies. Earlier, we mentioned the Ten Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack, these are a good starting point. Follow them carefully if you want to experience any modicum of success. Deviate from it and there’s no telling how brief your existence will become. Consistency is key to longevity.
Likewise for the church, consistency is needed in the wake of our changing world. This shifting paradigm can either be met with excitement or fear. To alleviate that fear, it is helpful to have a few rules to live by as we begin our new journey. Becoming a transformative and missional church doesn’t simply happen. It must be cultivated. Samuel Escobar, in his book The New Global Mission, asserts that mission starts in the heart of God. If this is true, then all we must do is faithfully respond to God’s mission as a people who are sent into the world. To respond to God’s mission, Escobar offers us six simple truths that will act as marching orders into the future of our church. They are in harmony with our aforementioned post-Christian and globalized reality blended with the discussion about the key attributes of a transformational and missional church. They are as follows:
The faith of the powerful is irrelevant, and mission has to be characterized by servanthood.
The gospel is a source of liberating power.
Faith is a spiritual combat.
The Western interpretation of Scripture is not the final word.
God is experienced as an awe-inspiriting divine mystery.
The power of the faith community is in the laity.
(from The New Global Mission p. 164)
There are many places we can begin in our road map towards a missional and transformative church, but the surest starting point, if we are hoping to effect change, must begin with the role of leader. If mission begins with God and manifests itself with his people, the leader is the spiritual middle man in this equation. The heart of the leader is the key place to begin our journey towards renovation of the church.
The following sections will give a brief overview of three key changes that leaders must embrace if they are to cultivate missional and transformational churches in the 21st century. These key changes will also guide me as I begin this new church plant. Rethinking diversity, hierarchy and spirituality at the leadership level will act as the epicenter for a catalytic move towards change…
Thank you TDYIF.com. You have singlehandedly save the whole movie experience for my wife and kids. I’m going to laminate this flow chart have have her keep this in her purse (we’ll make room by ditching that tip table card). When it comes to movies and bladder management, I prefer to practice controlled dehydration (no fluids for an 1-2 hours before) but no one else in the family cares for this discipline. It’s like water-boarding for the 10 and under crowed. Now, I have this handy new tool! Let the bladder’s in my family rejoice!